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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

io2                           THE GAY GENIUS

Things were happening fast now. The months of March and April
1070 saw a wholesale purge and packing of the censorate. The two
censors who fell next were Wang's personal friends, men who had
helped him to power and on whom he had depended for support.
Tall, fiery, eloquent Sun Chueh, who was also Su's lifelong friend, had
challenged Wang on his claim that the currency bureau of the Chod
dynasty, established in the twelfth century B.C., had lent money to
people at the rate of twenty-five per cent interest. Still hoping for his
support, Wang sent him out on a court investigation, again demanded
by the Emperor, into the persistent rumours that the loans were being
"forced" on the farmers even in districts close to the capital. Sun came
back and honestly reported that there was compulsion, which Wang
regarded as a "betrayal" of friendship—so Sun was dismissed. The
more important case was that of "Handsome, Beard" Lu Kungchu,
son of a premier, and a man of great learning but few words. In theiS
earlier days Wang and Lu had divided literary honours and the admiral
rion of scholars. Lu had helped Wang to power, and in return Wang
had made him chief of the censorate. Now Lu asked in a petition to
the Emperor, somewhat too pointedly for Wang's comfort :^ "How is
it that all public opinion has suddenly become 'reactionary', 'and how
is it that the great and able ministers of yesterday have suddenly
become the 'corrupt* men of today?" Wang drafted the edict of dis-
missal himself in words which showed something of the temperamental
character of the man. In their days of friendship, Wang Anshih had
said to the Emperor: "A man of Lu's ability simply has to become
a prime minister some day." Now he compared Lu to one of the "Fompi
Evil Monsters" under the ideal emperors Yao and Shun.

What alienated his former admirers more was that in the same
month Wang appointed two disreputable characters to replace the
censors he had dismissed. The appointment of Leeding as a full-rank
censor aroused a great fury in the censorate. Leeding had neither
passed the official examinations nor acquired the necessary civil service
standing, and he was known to have concealed the news of his mother's
death and failed to observe the rites of mourning. In Chinese eyes,
this is tantamount to degenerating into a beast. Wang promoted him
to this post because Leeding had come up from the country and had
reported that the farmers' loans were "extremely popular" with the^
people; Wang had introduced him to the Emperor to make the report
in person. This aroused the ire of the censors. At the same time Wang
made Shieh Chingwen, his brother-in-law, also a censor. To secure

promotion, Shieh had married his sister to one of Wang Anshih's
brothers. Three imperial secretaries rejected the edict of appointment—

which brought about the dismissal of these three from their office. The

other  remaining  censors  then  took  up   the  issue.   Chang  Chien